Country Style Minestrone

4 T. olive oil
¼ lb. pancetta or bacon, diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 T. minced garlic
½ head Savoy cabbage, sliced
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
2 cups canned chopped Italian tomatoes
4 cups (two 15 oz. cans) cannellini or white great northern beans
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 T. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ cup dry, small, imported pasta, such as ditali, orzo, or elbow
2 cups water
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned of stems, coarsely chopped or 1 bunch fresh spinach,
cleaned and coarsely chopped
6 thick slices Italian bread, toasted or grilled
¼ cup grated Romano cheese

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add pancetta or bacon and sauté for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook for another minute. Add the cabbage, potato, tomatoes, beans, broth, salt, pepper and basil. Cover; simmer for 20 minutes. Add pasta and water. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Stir often to make sure pasta is cooking evenly. Taste for seasoning. Add the Swiss chard, cook another 2 minutes just until wilted. Serve in large soup bowls with a thick slice of bread on bottom of bowl, topped with minestrone and cheese. Serves 8.

Note: This is a thick, hearty soup, filled with vegetables, beans and pasta. It is great way to feed a large crowd, for it can easily be doubled.

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